Is there anything out there you don’t know about Nirvana? The trio of Washington state rockers went from Seattle-based indie unknowns to international rock superstars in the early ’90s thanks to exactly one single song: the 1991 mega-hit ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ which made grunge a household word, cast Kurt Cobain in the woeful role of Voice of a Generation and made the band one of the most written about — and scrutinized — in the world.
More than two decades after Cobain’s suicide and the end of the band, Nirvana’s legacy is cemented in history thanks to the band’s recent enshrinement into Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; their first-ballot induction into the hallowed Hall a foregone conclusion. So, with such a well-known and documented group — the number of books about Cobain alone is too many to count — it’s not easy to find tidbits of information even the casual fan doesn’t know. But we’ll try.
Check out the video above or read the list below for facts you probably didn’t know about Nirvana!
You know them as Nirvana, but Kurt Cobain went through many band names before picking that one, including Fecal Matter, Pen Cap Chew, Bliss, Ted Ed Fred and Skid Row (not to be confused with the Sebastian Bach-fronted ’80s glam metal band from Jersey).
Kurt Cobain’s childhood and teen years in Aberdeen, Wash., are the source of much speculation and myth. He later claimed in several interviews that he actually spent time homeless and living under a bridge there, but that story has been widely debunked.
Frank Micelotta, Getty Images
Kurt once had this to say of his high school days: “I was so withdrawn by that time and so anti-social that I was almost insane. I always felt that they’d vote me ‘most likely to kill everybody at a high school dance.'”
In 1988, Nirvana inked a deal with Seattle indie label Sub Pop, releasing their first single ‘Love Buzz’ — a cover of a song by a Dutch band called Shocking Blue — as a 7-inch single.
Sub Pop put out the disc, but remained unconvinced in Nirvana and actually hit up Cobain for the $200 needed to first release it.
Sub Pop also released Nirvana’s debut full-length album, ‘Bleach,’ in 1989, with Jason Everman — who did a stint as Nirvana’s second guitarist — putting up the $606.17 that was infamously listed on its liner notes as the cost of recording the disc.
Jason Everman didn’t actually appear on ‘Bleach’ at all; his brief time with Nirvana didn’t start until after the band had finished recording.
‘Bleach’ was released on June 15, 1989, to initially modest sales and lukewarm reviews. It had sold just 40,000 copies by the time Nirvana put out their second album, ‘Nevermind’ — but eventually became Sub Pop’s all-time best seller, moving well more than a million units since its release.
The working title of ‘Too Many Humans’ was changed to ‘Bleach’ after Cobain found an AIDS prevention poster aimed at heroin addicts with the catchy slogan “Bleach Your Works.”
Following ‘Bleach,’ drummer Chad Channing was replaced by Dave Grohl, former skinsman for the D.C.-area punk band Scream and future frontman of his own multi-platinum post-Nirvana project, the Foo Fighters.
Frustrated by Sub Pop’s limited distribution, Nirvana used songs recorded with producer (and Garbage drummer) Butch Vig as a demo to sign a major-label deal with DGC Records for the release of their second album, ‘Nevermind.’
The deal happened after repeated recommendations from Kim Gordon, the bassist whose own band Sonic Youth inked with DGC for their 1990 major-label debut album, ‘Goo.’
Rolling Stone magazine initially gave ‘Nevermind’ a four-out-of-five-star review — despite eventually naming it the Best Album of the ’90s and placing it at No. 17 on its 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.
‘Nevermind’ famously knocked Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ off the top of the Billboard 200 albums tally, and spent a total of 252 weeks on the charts. But what album bumped ‘Nevermind’ out of the No. 1 spot? Country superstar Garth Brooks’ ‘Ropin the Wind.’
Phil Walter / Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Cobain hated director Sam Bayer’s original cut of the ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ video, personally re-editing the video and telling Time magazine he “threw in a few extra things which pretty much saved it.”
Cobain married Courtney Love on Feb. 24, 1992, on a cliff overlooking Hawaii’s Waikiki Beach — but bassist Krist Novoselic, who was not on good terms with the bride and groom at the time, refused to attend.
Jemal Countess, Getty Images
Courtney Love has claimed that director Quentin Tarantino personally offered the role of the heroin dealer in ‘Pulp Fiction’ to Kurt, who turned it down but was sure to thank “Tarantino, Quentin” in the liner notes to Nirvana’s third album, ‘In Utero.’ The role ultimately went to Eric Stoltz.
Just days before his suicide, a heroin-addicted Kurt leaped the fence of a Los Angeles rehab facility and boarded a planed back to Seattle. Sitting next to him in first class? None other than Guns N’ Roses rocker Duff McKagan.
The shotgun Cobain used to end his life on April 5, 1994, was purchased by one of his closest friends, Dylan Carlson of the Seattle drone-doom band Earth; Kurt said he needed it for self defense.
What obscure facts did we miss about Nirvana?
If you knew at least half, consider yourself what Buddha considers an “enlightened being,” or one who exists in a state called Nirvana. Tell us some more things that fans probably don’t know about Nirvana in the comments section below.
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